The Concierge, Here to Help

Raising umbrella on beach for guestsNot so long ago, the job of a hotel concierge was all about obtaining impossible-to-get theater tickets and booking a limo to the airport. But these days, hotels like to employ savvy specialists whose duties are very situation-specific.

LONDON: If you're bringing man's best friend to the Rubens at the Palace, tel: (44-20) 7834 6600, your dog will be welcomed with pet concierge Dave Brown's special hamper: a toy, munchies and a Rubens tag. He'll also have set up a food bowl and pet bed complete with a DO NOT DISTURB, PET SLEEPING card. Dog-walking and -sitting services are naturally available. Incidentally, the hotel does not discriminate — cats are equally spoiled.

LOS CABOS: Pool concierges at Mexico's Las Ventanas al Paraiso, tel: (52-624) 144 2800, ply you with frosted Evian spray, tequila ice cream and sunblock (of your desired SPF — they have all strengths). And should you have a siesta, they'll also be your personal alarm clock. A colored-flag system communicates when you wish to be woken.

MONT-TREMBLANT: The job description of the wood concierge at Quebec's Hotel Quintessence, tel: (1-819) 425 3400, is simple: Create coziness. And that means restocking your room's fireplace with seasoned wood, starting a roaring fire and keeping it stoked. He can time its lighting to greet your return from the slopes or set an outdoor bonfire for marshmallow-roasting.

LUANG PRABANG: Romance is the specialty of the proposal concierge at Orient-Express Hotels. Select the property where you'll be popping the question and leave the rest to him. Choose La Residence Phou Vao, tel: (856-71) 212 194, in Luang Prabang, Laos, and you could be getting down on one knee midway through a welcoming ritual hosted by a village elder, or during a dinner lit by 500 candles, or on a sunset cruise that stops at various romantic spots.

SAN DIEGO NORTH: Found in a bona fide surf shack at Four Seasons Resort Aviara, tel: (1-760) 603 6800, surf concierge Ross Hunt shares the scoop on everything from wave conditions and water temperature to surf etiquette and longboard lingo. And for those who've never surfed, the resident expert's team teaches a two-hour lesson.